Judging By the Cover

Our office is just a stone’s throw from where I live. In fact, all I have to do is cross EDSA and voila, hello office. But even within such a short distance, I get plenty of opportunities to step back, take a look at myself and think about the world I live in.

What am I talking about, eh? Actually, I feel like every single day I feel judged based on how I look and the clothes I wear.

You see, the best thing about the company I work for is that they allow employees to come to work in any get-up that the employee finds comfortable. With only a few restrictions — no sandos, no sandals, no slippers. Many times, my co-workers and I choose to just report to work in a T-shirt, a pair of jeans and Chucks. That’s all right with the company. After all, I always have a semi-formal jacket handy in case an emergency meeting presents itself.

But there are occasions when I feel that it is imperative to level up the wardrobe. When I know that there will be important meetings with clients ahead that day, I will wear my long sleeves, coat, black slacks, and leather shoes. That normally happens twice a week.

And on the days that I look formal or semi-formal, I notice some little things that allow me to see just how differently we treat people based on how they look.

My normal morning routine upon leaving the house includes the following:

1. Crossing the overpass (MRT Boni station) where I usually pass by several condo-selling agents waiting for potential buyers on the way down.

2. Buying breakfast at a cafeteria at the ground level of our office building. In this cafeteria, there is usually no line. Customers just approach the counter and order.

3. And, entering the building.

Whenever I have the semi-formal or smart casual look, this happens:

1. On the way down the wide staircase, I get blocked a number of times by these real estate agents, giving me their pamphlets and the moment I take it, they invite me inside to which I respond, “Sorry, I’m late for work.”

2. The counter girl at the cafeteria treats me courteously. “Sir, ano pong order n’yo?” “Gusto nyo po ng ketchup, sir?” “Scrambled po ba or sunny-side-up yung egg?” Great! Customer service at its best! Love it.

3. The guard stationed at the entrance of the building doesn’t bother to check my bag. He just lets me breeze through the entrance to the elevators.

That would have been nice. However, whenever I am in my usual get-up (T-shirt, jeans, chucks), this happens:

1. No one from the roster of real estate agents waiting for potential clients care about me. They don’t move from where they stand unless there’s somebody behind me that they think has the means to afford their products. That’s okay, though. I don’t need to be invited inside again, anyway.

2. But things get annoying when I enter the cafeteria. Unless I’m the only customer at the time, I am usually not the first to be served even when I’m the first at the counter. They usually say “Anong order?” That’s it. No choice whether I’d love my egg scrambled or sunny-side-up; they’ll just give me whatever is there. No more ketchup for me, unless I ask.

3. I get blocked and inspected by the guard. Sometimes, they even check whether my ID is real. That’s alright, they’re doing their job. But it just amuses me.

What’s more baffling is the thought that most of the time, these are the same people. Don’t they realize that I’m the same person they treated oh so excellently the day before? That I just lost the coat and the leather shoes?

Just last week, I was just gonna have coffee with my friend Tonet at MegaMall. While waiting for her, I decided to pay my credit card dues at a bank. I was wearing a T-Shirt, a pair of shorts and again, Chucks. I couldn’t help but notice how the guard blocked me and asked, “Boy, san ka?” I answered with “Kuya, magbabayad ng credit card.”

So I fell in line. And when it was finally my turn, I immediately handed her the accomplished form and the 100 dollar bill. Here’s what happened:

Teller: Hindi kami nagsusukli ng dollars dito.

Me: OK lang, ate, kahit pesos na lang. Nagsusukli naman kayo ng pesos, di ba?

Teller: Hindi nga kami nagsusukli ng dollars dito.

Me: OK lang nga ate na pesos, basta may sukli.

Teller: O sige, akina yung form. Pirmahan mo dito kasi may bura.

Me: (signs the form)

Teller: Hindi kami nagsusukli ng dollars dito ha.

Me: (slightly mad, slightly lang) You know what miss, I don’t care. I told you, I don’t mind pesos. Just give me my damn change.

Teller: (switches to sweet mode) Ay OK po sir, pesos na lang po yung change. Wait lang po sir ah.

It amuses me how quickly her tone changed the moment I spoke in straight English. But more than that, I wonder whether this would have turned out differently had I chosen a more formal look that afternoon.

It makes me think about how we, myself included, treat people differently and according to how they look. I mean, think about it.


  1. True. I experience that everyday, given that i wear whatever suits me. Idagdag mo na ang mga rep ng World Vision, WWF, at mga socio-civic groups asking for donations. Same guys, different outfits. Kung makapamili ng lalapitan noh! haha

  2. meron architect sa company namin na walang ka-effort effort pumorma, minsan pa nga pumapasok siya na naka tsinelas at shorts lang. kaya many times napagkakamalan siya na construction worker “lang” ng mga guard at engineers, tapos binabastos siya. so when they find out na architect pala yun napapahiya sila or biglang nagbabago pagtrato.

  3. I think you have to dress up base on who you are and were your going. Is there any protocol or dress code base on profession? If you’r going to the park or beach or you are a tourist, shorts and sandals are okay. Be professional.

    • Yes, I agree. But that’s not the point. Like what John Barry said below, we all deserve equal treatment regardless of who we are, much less what we wear.

      Take for example the bank incident, it’s at the mall. it doesn’t matter what you wear. after all, we’re all customers. πŸ˜›

  4. that’s one reason i haven’t set foot inside a kamiseta store in years. i usually went there after work so i’d always be in descent clothes and the sales clerks attended to me oh so diligently but one time i went shopping on a weekend and wore just cargo shorts, t-shirt and flip flops, a get up i am most comfortable in, and was surprised that ALL of them ignored me when i asked for assistance. the exact same thing happened in their other branches too.

    i only shop for clothes a few times in a year but when i do i go all out. i was ready to spend some amount in their store but because that happened i decided to boycott them and spend money on their competitors instead. not my loss but theirs.

    • that’s sad. It usually happens to me at banks or payment centers. Restaurants, too, sometimes. I know that there are places that call for more formal clothes but for establishments at a mall or something, they should expect customers… in a more casual attire.

      But that’s besides the point. The point is, GOOD customer service is for all. Regardless whether you’re in heels or flipflops, slacks or shorts. We all deserve the same treatment.

  5. I noticed that when I am in uber casual clothes (basic hole free cotton tee + cargo shorts + flipflops) sales clerks would practically tail me around as if I am planning to steal the overpriced under quality wares which is a bit of a turn off since being dressed down makes it easier to fit clothes. However, similar to Ria Noreen Pattinson’s experience, if I’m in office clothes, they tend to act as if I am going to be buying the entire contents of the store.

    • Hmmm. Seems like you learned it the hard way, Mel. πŸ˜›

      I am very very guilty of this, too, admittedly. That’s why I didn’t exclude myself in this post.

    • im sorry i dont agree. Everyone deserves the same treatment especially when it comes to customer service.

      So let’s say i’m a farmer and im in my farming clothes when i visit the bank, how should i be treated? SHould I and the busin…essman in a formal suit beside me be treated differently? No.

  6. I’m guilty of doing this. Sometimes kc pag may nkasakay aq sa jeep na mukhang kahina-hinala ang itsura based sa clothes (jacket-kahit mainit, big bag) nde q mapigilang matakot na bka may binabalak syang masama.I tried to be more reasonable now though i’m still vigilant.

  7. @Mary Ann hahaha, admittedly, ganun din ako. lol. kaya nga hindi ko talaga inexclude ang sarili ko. I think we all have this tendency. But it’s funny and sad.

  8. Pero aminin niyo masarap ang feeling pag naka casual ka lang as in comfy clothes tapos you’re not being attended to, then mapapahiya sila kasi hiniya ka nila and judged you based on your looks when you are really the buying customer. hahaha This happens to me once when me and my best friend bought laptops, literal na naka shorts, tsinelas at t-shirt lang kami na walang brand (Mahirap na may dala kaming cash eh) we are being ignored by other employees kasi we are asking for discount anyway dalawa naman kaming bibili, until this one ate approach us and give excellent service, we paid the laptops cash. haha then afterwards I heard other salemen at inaasar si ate na nakadalawa agad siyang benta na laptop, that serves them right because they are choosy pag dating sa customer!

      • TAMA! mas maganda ng mapagkamalang magnanakaw kesa manakawan. hahaha. Actually wala nga kaming dalang bag nun, hehehe nasa bulsa lang namin yung cash. hahaha

  9. Teller: Eto na po sukli niyo sir in pesos. Pero sir, hindi po kami nag susukli ng dollar dito ha… Hinding hinding hindi po..

    Yoshke: ~__~ >__< *sigh* PS: Congrats sa Phil blog awards! Namakyaw ka daw πŸ˜€ hehehe.. πŸ˜€

  10. 3. The guard stationed at the entrance of the building doesn’t bother to check my bag. He just lets me breeze through the entrance to the elevators.

    >>>> i’ve experienced this a couple of times.

    i’m usually in my Gothic outfit or make-up kaya there are plenty of establishments na hinaharang ako for a bag/body check. it’s actually fine by me.

    … but what really ticked me off was that there were ladies after me who had three times the luggage i was carrying and the guard didnt even bother waving his magic wand in their bags. he just let them pass without checking… all because they had mala-celebrity na make-up and designer clothing.

    i’m actually not sure if i’d report this treatment to their management or just let it pass.

  11. The real estate agents story, SO TRUE! Everytime I wear formal clothes, and they tail me at the mall. But when I wear casual clothes, it’s as if they never see me.

  12. the same scenario also happened to me a lot of time when I was still working with one of the BPO companies in Eastwood City.

    I hated how the condo sales agents would look at me from head to feet, and approach me if I passed their standards of a potential buyer. I know they’re just doing their job, but it’s offensive in a way.

  13. couldn’t agree more. I can even squeeze myself effortlessly inside the MRT in the morning when I’m all prepped up. πŸ˜€

    my friend on the other hand goes to Eastwood all the way from Alabang in his typical bacon-collared shirt and boxer shorts and would always get minimal service from restaurants to think he’s the one who’s gonna foot the bill of our dinner.

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